Many of the military projects that we think of as space alien coverup schemes are actually pretty easy to explain. (Well, some of them of are alien coverup schemes. Just not all.)
Back in the '80s, we did indeed tout our secret missile-destroying Strategic Defense Initiative. It was mostly a bunch of land-based missiles, kind of setting a foundation for today's Iron Dome. That didn't stop people (Americans and Soviets) from thinking it was all about orbiting space lasers.
Suggested By: My X-type is too a real Jagggggg, Photo Credit: Air Force
Yes, we did make a flying saucer back in the '50s. No, it didn't really work.
Suggested By: Stig-saw-us-wrecks and GR1M RACER, Photo Credit: Avrocar: Canada's Flying Saucer
We all know that there aren't Roswell aliens tucked away in some Area 51 bunker, but that doesn't mean the military doesn't do weird stuff out there. Plenty of secret planes have lived there, and the government's next gigantic flying wing may be bound for the site.
Suggested By: marshknute, Photo Credit: CIA
One of the big reasons behind the whole Area 51 aliens conspiracy is Project Mogul, a late 1940s project for detecting Soviet atomic tests. How were the tests detected? With microphones on high-altitude balloons. Oh, and one of them crashed in a place called Roswell, New Mexico. If you're wondering where the whole UFO thing got going (or the 'it's just a weather balloon' explanation), look no further.
Suggested By: HumptyDance, Photo Credit:Roswell Daily Record
This was really only misunderstood by the Nazis — back in WWII us Allies sent around an 1,100-man unit to give fake radio transmissions, pose with inflatable fake tanks, and conduct fake exercises to deceive the enemy.
Much of the Ghost Army's work was kept classified until the 1990s. A documentary came out about 'em in 2013, and it's supposed to be great.
Suggested By: Ash78, Photo Credit: US Army (fake Sherman tank pictured)
The truth is, nobody has ever understood the Internet.
Suggested By: TylerLinner
For some reason, the Navy trucked around their latest stealth drone (still undergoing testing) on the back of a flatbed in 2011. Everyone called it a UFO.
Suggested By: , Photo Credit: KSN via Alien Disclosure Group
This Soviet Ekranoplan was so big that Americans named it the 'Kaspian Monster,' mostly because it had 'KM' written on the side and that it was unbelievably huge. We never really figured out what, exactly, this ground-effect craft was supposed to do. The Soviets never did either and the project got cancelled. For many years it was the world's largest aircraft.
No, it won't make you invisible, as everyone figured when this tech first trickled into the public consciousness.
Suggested By: Lucid, Photo Credit: USAF via Foxtrot Alpha
I think Io9 put it best in their recent article (read it all right here) on this very secretive government-backed research facility.
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) in Alaska, [...] studies the ionosphere—or creates lethal hurricanes—depending on whom you talk to.
It's just a very remote weather station, but it keeps itself sealed off from visitors and gets the tin foil hat brigade going crazy any time somebody mentions a surprise storm or the northern lights.
Suggested By: Jimmy Joe Meeker, Photo Credit: HAARP
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Photo Credit: US Air Force drawing of SDI